Bid to stop Brexit Party group in Welsh Assembly fails

Group of four
Image caption Nigel Farage (third left) launched the Brexit Party in the Senedd last week

An attempt by Welsh Assembly members to change the institution's rules in response to the formation of the Brexit Party group has failed.

AMs from Plaid Cymru and Labour had wanted to stop the group from forming after it was announced.

But a decision by the presiding officer to recognise the group of four AMs officially had "gazumped" the effort, a source claimed.

A spokesman for the pro-Brexit group declined to comment.

The AMs had sought to change the assembly's standing orders so regional AMs could not defect to other parties away from the parties that headed their party lists.

Proposals emerged after Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage revealed the group of four, led by Mark Reckless, last week on the Senedd steps.

Plaid and Labour AMs argued that the group, made up of politicians elected or appointed through UKIP's party lists, had no democratic mandate.

But not all of Labour's 29 AMs agreed with changing the rules to prevent the group from forming.

One party source said changing the rules would give the Brexit Party a "massive grudge that they will dine out on for a long time".

On Tuesday Lee Waters, a government deputy minister, said on Twitter the standing orders had "failed to anticipate this development, and we should change it for future but to do so retrospectively risks further martyrdom".

Image caption Mark Reckless made his first appearance as grop leader at FMQs on Tuesday

Alun Davies, AM for Blaenau Gwent, said: "I want Elin to explain how this decision which allows UKIP seats to be stolen is consistent with our electoral system."

Despite Ms Jones' decision it seemed that the effort was still active.

A Plaid Cymru source later said that retrospective action would have been "legally questionable", while one individual in the party blamed Labour disunity and said there was little the presiding officer could do under the current rules.

Another said people were struggling to see what could be done after the presiding officer had made the decision.

On Tuesday Mr Reckless said the Brexit Party would "reap the electoral reward" if Plaid and Labour AMs still tried to stop the new group by changing the rules.

Mr Reckless made his first appearance as a party group leader at First Minister's Questions on Tuesday, accusing Mark Drakeford of not being clear on whether he respected the result of the 2016 referendum.

Mr Drakeford, mocking Mr Reckless' previous defections, said his "sort of peripatetic approach to politics is not one that I think leaves him in any position to ask others in this Chamber questions about respecting democratic mandates".

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